Ronnie Allen Warren, a former boxer running for Tacoma City Council, doesn’t live at the address he listed on his official declaration of candidacy, and there are questions about whether he lives in the district he seeks to represent.
A campaign opponent is calling for Warren to withdraw and might contest the election. The Tacoma city attorney also is looking into the matter, and an attorney for the Pierce County Auditor’s Office said there could be a question of perjury.
Warren, who finished second in last month’s primary race for the District 3 council position, told The News Tribune on Tuesday that he couldn’t remember his address when he filed for office in June, so he put down his sister’s address on South Ash Street. Warren said his actual address is an apartment on South 13th Street. He said he’s lived there about six months, and that he spent time at Jericho House, a Hilltop housing facility, before that. All three locations are within District 3.
Warren denied a woman’s claim that he lives at a house in the 6300 block of South Fawcett Street, outside the boundaries of District 3. The self-described minister and outreach worker said he’s been homeless at times and has occasionally stayed with a friend at the Fawcett Street house.
“No, it’s not my address,” Warren said. “I’ve never stayed there long-term.”
Questions about Warren’s residency surfaced over the weekend when Rachel Bennett, an acquaintance of Warren, called Donald Powell, the Tacoma attorney who finished in third place in the primary election, 25 votes behind Warren.
Bennett, who said she is friends with the man who owns the house on Fawcett Street, told Powell that Warren has been staying there since 2001, with the exception of a period between August 2006 and March 2007.
The owner of the Fawcett Street house did not return a call from The News Tribune.
Bennett provided Powell with a copy of an e-mail exchange she had with Warren in which Warren admitted the address he listed in the voter’s pamphlet is not where he lives.
“I have been given a physical address that I couldn’t remember at the time of application,” Warren wrote in an Aug. 20 e-mail to Bennett, echoing what he told The News Tribune on Tuesday. “My preference was my P.O. Box, but I forgot to request it. I have been homeless at times and occasionally I have stayed with Tommie as you know on a day-to-day basis.”
Bennett told The News Tribune she called Powell because she was bothered that people voted for Warren believing he would represent them.
“To me, a vote is a precious right,” said Bennett, who said she lives in the district. “For the people to take the time to vote and not be aware the individual does not live there is wrong.”
Warren dismissed Bennett’s charge.
“She’s always had a grudge against me,” he said.
Based on Bennett’s claim, Powell said he was considering whether to contest the election. The Tacoma City Charter requires City Council candidates to live in the district they seek to represent for at least a year prior to running for office.
But the process for challenging the election wasn’t immediately clear. State law and the Tacoma City Charter both address the subject. City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli said Tuesday that her office was looking into the matter to determine the “interplay” between the charter and the state law. Pauli said she had just learned of the questions, and wasn’t aware of a precedent.
After learning from a reporter that Warren admitted he listed his sister’s address as his own on his candidate filing, Powell said Warren should pull out of the race.
“What is clear is Mr. Warren was not truthful in his sworn statement of candidacy,” Powell said. “I find that troublesome.”
According to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office, Warren listed 6318 S. Fawcett Ave. on his voter’s registration from December 2005 through June 4 of this year, when he changed it to 2302 S. Ash St. He changed the address on his voter’s registration the same day he filed paperwork to run for City Council.
Al Rose, the attorney who represents the auditor’s office, said Warren wouldn’t be disqualified based on the discrepancy in his addresses because both the Ash Street and 13th Street address are in District 3. But there could be a question of whether Warren committed perjury on his declaration of candidacy, Rose said.
Auditor Pat McCarthy said her office relies on candidates to be truthful when they register to vote and when they file for office.
Powell said he’s eager for the chance to take on front-runner Lauren Walker in the November election.
Warren didn’t seem fazed over the possibility of a challenge to the primary election. He said he’s trusting God to take care of him.
“Donald Powell can do what he wants,” Warren said. “He lost the race. He’s upset. More power to him.”
Tacoma City Council District 3 primary election results from Aug. 21. The top two vote-getters go on to the November general election.
Lauren Walker 1,932
Ronnie Allen Warren 429
Donald N. Powell 404
Jack Pleasant 375